Painting a Cowboy’s Story to Life and Touching the Heart: Valeriy Kagounkin

“I talk with people through my painting. I tell a story,” says Valeriy Kagounkin, the featured artist for the 2020 Cattlemen’s Western Art Show and Sale. He continued to describe his approach to painting a new work; “Each human has the heart, the spirit, the dream. I paint what is that story.” Many of those stories he paints are about cowboys.

Breaking Down the Story Through Painting

Valeriy describes what goes through his mind as he paints each picture. “I want to break the flat canvas and make it 3D. The world, the weather, the feeling, the details, painting the sound of the horse breathing and the breeze in the trees is what I create to make real-life art.”

Idaho Sky

His favorite scenes to create depict humans in nature, underneath sky, showing the connection to nature. Cowboys, horses, children, animals, mountains, valleys and forests are familiar subjects in his works. “I love the country. It makes me very happy,” states Valeriy.

Growing up in Siberia, Russia

Growing up in Siberia, Russia gave him ample opportunity to connect with nature. Even in the frozen north he would paint snow scenes “plein air” which means painting in the outdoors. Valeriy describes his first memory of painting a snow scene outside. “It was dark and very cold, but wow!” At nine years of age Valeriy qualified to attend the Children’s Art School in Siberia. “I had to take a very high-level test to get in. Attending this school was my dream. My dream was to become an artist.”

Art Education Continues

Valeriy went on to study at the Krasnoyarsk Junior Art College and graduated with honors. At the prompting of his mother, his education turned to Agriculture as an extension of his work on his uncle’s farm. His uncle used horses on his farm and raised a variety of animals. Valeriy became the tractor driver. He did receive a degree in Agriculture. However, his heart still drew him back to the canvas with his oil paints and brush in hand. Consequently, his art training continued upon acceptance to the Moscow Academy of Art of V. Surikov. This was the final leg of his art education.

Valeriy Kagounkin Paints Cowboys and Ranching Life

Skyline Trail

Many of his paintings depict the cowboy and ranching life. When asked where his familiarity with this way of life comes from, he replies, “I have it in my heart. The modern world is not in my heart.” His work on his uncle’s farm placed a love of agriculture in his heart. Once through with his art training he returned to teach fine art at the Junior Art College for twelve years. Although happy there, his path would eventually lead him surprisingly to the United States.

His Journey to America

“I won the Green Card Lottery,” Valeriy stated as his reason for coming to the United States. Unbeknownst to Valeriy one of his relatives had been filling out the paperwork for the Green Card Lottery every year on behalf of Valeriy. Winning one of the few Green Card Lottery slots given to Russian citizens to come live and work in the U.S.A. was quite a surprise. “I came home one day and the envelope was in the mail. I had won a spot in the Greed Card Lottery to come to America.”

Finding an apartment in Sacrament and setting up his art studio, Valeriy set out to make a living as an artist. “I didn’t make much money so I got a janitor job to supplement my art sales.” Valeriy did not know the English language very well, yet his landlord got him connected with people who could help him get acclimated. He took a break and went back to Russia then returned determined to keep going and not give up.

A Door Opens

“One day God opened a door and someone saw my work,” Valeriy tells how things took off for him as an artist. “Now I own my own house, and have lived here for fourteen years.” Country life speaks to his soul and he enjoys watching his neighbor’s horses frolic in the pasture while he cares for his chickens.

The Difference is in the Details

The old diamond arms one shot gun

Most of his paintings show really fine details. “I use a smaller brush to paint the details in the horses’ faces, in the cowboys’ attire, in the blades of grass and in the sky.” Valeriy spends time with cowboys and works at getting the specific details in the clothing, tack and tools just right for whatever region he is painting. He asks the cowboys questions to be sure he is getting the details right. Sometimes they send him photos or video to help him visualize what he is painting.

“I have thousands of sketches of horses moving, of cowboys working, of outdoor scenes,” these sketches form the basis of where Valeriy gets his ideas for a painting.

Now his works are treasured possessions of art museums and in personal homes and collections. The biggest reward in his eyes was hearing of a woman who drove from Colorado to an art auction in Montana. Her sole purpose in getting to this auction was to buy “my horse’s painting”. She had seen the painting while looking at the works to be auctioned on the website. She knew she had to have that painting because it was so like her horse. “That was a very big award for my heart,” beams Valeriy as he relayed this story.

Painting a Cowboy’s Story to Life and Touching the Heart

“My paintings are purchased because I touched a heart. That is my life,” explains Valeriy regarding what drives him to keep painting. He loves to develop a common scene yet highlight the fun in an everyday activity.

Cowboy with short barrel stays close to the target

The story in one such painting is about a very young cowboy who was out playing and needed to use the outhouse. He stopped ever so briefly, not even taking the time to close the door behind him. Being a young lad, it didn’t take too much concentration to hit the target as he was so close. This painting is called, “Cowboy with a short barrel stays close to the target.” Many cowboys relished in this scene as they remembered being in those same cowboy boots as a young child.


Valeriy Kagounkin: Featured Artist for the 2020 Cattlemen’s Western Art Show and Sale

Come enjoy the heart-touching western scenes painted by Valeriy Kagounkin at the Cattlemen’s Western Art Show and Sale  April 3-5, 2020 at the Paso Robles Event Center.

Friday night April 3, 2020 5:00 – 9:00 pm is the Artist’s Reception where 50 western artists will be available to discuss their art and meet with attendees. San Luis Obispo Cattlemen’s Association barbeques some tasty hors d’oeuvres,  no-host bar serves up beverages plus several local wineries (Ancient Peaks and Vintage Cowboy will be among them) pour tastes of their delights. Cost to attend the Friday night Artist’s Reception is $20.00 at the door.

The show and sale continues on Saturday, April 4 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and on Sunday, April 5, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm as the Western artwork remains on display and for purchase. Show entrance is free on Saturday and Sunday. A Santa Maria style BBQ lunch cooked up by the SLO California Cattlemen’s Association will be available for $10.00 a plate both weekend days. A no-host bar will be pouring drinks with proceeds benefiting Cattlemen’s Association Youth Ag Projects.

Cover Painting: “Heading to the Ranch” by Valeriy Kagounkin


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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family. Presently she is enjoying riding a Rocky Mounted Gaited horse and exploring Mounted Archery. Her new baby is Whisper, a Connemara filly.

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